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The Louisiana State Police Commission may have placed on its agenda for Thursday’s meeting an item to go into “executive session for discussion of professional competence” of commission Director Cathy Derbonne but an option that rests with Derbonne could put commission Chairman T.J. Doss behind the proverbial eight ball.

Doss is the State Police member on the commission. The remaining six members are appointed by the governor from each of the state’s Congressional districts.

Besides the item to enter into executive session, a separate item calls for “consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.”

The entire proceeding, however could blow up in the faces of commissioners should Derbonne exercise her option to insist that all discussion be held in open session. Legally, she is entitled to make that call and if she does, there could be egg on the faces of Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, et al.

In something of a plot twist, the web page of the State Police Commission was down briefly Wednesday night. Efforts to go onto the PAGE resulted in a message that the web address could not be accessed. The page was back online, however, after about 20 minutes.

Interestingly, the funneling of more than $40,000 in campaign contributions by the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) through its executive director produced only a sham of an investigation by a political ally of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Natchitoches attorney and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend was hired under a $75,000 contract to “investigate” the contributions which were approved by the LSTA board of directors, comprised of state troopers, and laundered through LSTA Executive Director David Young. Young made the contributions, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Edwards, by writing checks on his personal account and then submitting expense invoices to the association.

Townsend, obviously taking his marching orders from up the food chain, declined to include as part of the evidence an audio recording of a meeting of troopers concerned about the contributions at which it was acknowledged that the LSTA violated the restrictions against state troopers becoming active in political campaigns, including making contributions. Townsend also failed to follow protocol in submitting a written report of his findings and instead, made only a verbal recommendation that “no action be taken.”

Townsend likewise has been silent on the issue of the manner in which commission members were appointed. When there is a vacancy, the commission chairman is required to notify the university president in that congressional district to solicit names for nominations from which list the governor makes his appointment.

Derbonne’s major transgression appears to be that she did her job, including notifying the governor’s office of the requirements for member appointments and of commission members who, like the LSTA, violated ethics rules by making political contributions while sitting on the board. Three members ultimately resigned because of that issue.

So, bottom line, what we have here is a failure to communicate (apologies to the late Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke). An attorney who is a crony of the governor shirks his duty to the job for which he was contracted but still collects his fees and stands in good stead with the commission while Derbonne followed the dictates of her job and finds her job is on the line.

Way to go, guys. You should really feel good about yourselves. Eulis Simien, I really thought you had more integrity than to let yourself be manipulated by Doss and Edmonson.

Every time I hear Doss talk, I wonder how it feels to have Edmonson’s hand up his backside.

Calvin Braxton, you’ve already seen what can happen when you cross Mike Edmonson, but you’re going along with this fiasco anyway?

Monica J. Manzella, I’m really not that surprised; after all, you negotiate contracts with the State Police on behalf of the City of New Orleans. No conflict there.

Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Mike Edmonson obviously owns you.

Donald Breaux, we know where your loyalty lies with your special LSTA-1 license plate on your car.

You’re all a real piece of work.

How can Simien and Caruso-Riecke (appointed June 6) and Manzella (Oct. 11), who between them, have barely a year’s experience on the board, make any kind of intelligent judgment call as to the competence of Derbonne? The answer is, they can’t; they can only rely on the manipulations of Edmonson and Doss.

And that $75,000 investigation by Taylor Townsend only to get a verbal “I recommend no action.” It’s a damn good thing you weren’t heading up the investigation of the previous commission executive director DEBRA JOHNSON. Even the Office of Inspector General nailed her for felony theft, fraud, and malfeasance in office.

If anyone in this tragicomedy should be called to the carpet for misappropriation of funds, it should be Townsend. I could’ve done what he did for a measly five bucks and a beer from the bar run by LSTA over at the State Police training facility in Zachary.

We can only hope Derbonne will exercise her rights and make them do their dirty work out in the open for everyone to see.

And if you think firing a single employee—for no other reason that she insists on doing the right thing despite what Edmonson wants—will make your problems disappear, you’re so very wrong.

If you think LouisianaVoice has been a pain in the ass so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) promises to be a bloodbath with number-one coward (there are six cowards on the commission, so we are forced to give them numbers) T.J. Doss leading the way—running interference, as it were, for his boss.

The agenda for Thursday’s 9 a.m. meeting includes two significant items:

  • Executive session for discussion of professional competence of Director of State Police Commission (Cathy Derbonne);
  • Consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.

While there was no immediate indication what precipitated this sudden move, rest assured that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s DNA is all over it.

There’s no guarantee, of course that Derbonne’s fate has already been decided and that the “discussion” and “consideration” are mere formalities (read: B.S.)—but that’s where the smart money is.

Here is a copy of an ANONYMOUS-LETTER LouisianaVoice received last Saturday, which apparently was also sent to Derbonne:

Actually, perhaps coward may be the wrong term. A better description would be incompetent, backstabbing, rubber-stamping, salivating lap dogs—owned, wormed and neutered by Edmonson. Did I leave out trained? Sorry.

Like the letter (apparently written by an active Trooper who works at State Police Headquarters in Baton Rouge) says, “The senior command—that would be Edmonson, Jason Starnes and Charlie Dupuy—does not take kindly to not having the LSPC rubber stamp their desires.”

That sentence was likely in reference to an issue raised by the only member with any spine, LLOYD GRAFTON of Ruston. Grafton, a couple of meetings back complained that the commission had been misled by Edmonson when he told commission members the promotion of Starnes to lieutenant colonel so he could take on the financial duties of retired JILL BOUDREAUX (even though he has no background in accounting or finance) would not result in additional costs. “Then I turn around and (the new lieutenant colonel slot) has gone from $125,000 to $150,000. Somebody is not being honest,” Grafton said.

To a member, the remaining five members (Monica Manzella was not yet on the board at the meeting in question)—Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Donald Breaux, Calvin W. Braxton, Sr., and Eulis Simien, Jr.— went conveniently blank, professing to have no memory of Edmonson’s comment but Derbonne told the commission that he did indeed make that claim.

(An audio recording of the meeting obtained by LouisianaVoice via a public records request confirmed Grafton’s recollection of Edmonson’s testimony as well as Derbonne’s assertion.)

At that point, Doss and the Feeble Four switched their arguments to whether or not, LSPC had any authority over setting salaries. Derbonne’s response was the commission had no authority to exceed the State Police pay grid but that it did have the authority to approve the promotion of Starnes—based on Edmonson’s assurance that no additional cost would be incurred.

Perhaps that anonymous letter should also have pointed out that Edmonson and his lackey commission don’t like to be shown up by facts or to have their flawed collective memories refreshed when it becomes and embarrassment to them.

That, Ms. Derbonne, is apparently an unforgivable sin.

Basically, here is what LouisianaVoice has learned in covering LSPC during the past year:

  • The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA—not to be confused with LSPC, which is the state civil service equivalent that investigates state trooper wrongdoing and hears appeals from disciplined troopers) laundered political campaign contributions through its executive director—in apparent violation of state ethics rules prohibiting campaign contributions from individual troopers. The decision to make the contributions, by necessity, had to have been approved by members of the LSTA board;
  • An “investigation” of the contributions by LSPA hit an abrupt dead-end when Gov. John Bel Edwards pal Taylor Townsend was hired at $75,000 to get to the bottom of the campaign contribution controversy. He promptly declined to submit a written report to the LSPA and instead, made a verbal recommendation that “no action” be taken, a recommendation only too quickly approved by the commission;
  • LSTA operated a bar that served alcohol at the State Police training facility in Zachary where prisoners are also housed, an apparent violation of state law prohibiting the sale and/or the consumption of alcohol at correctional facilities;
  • Former LSPC member William Goldring, who RESIGNED last April after it was revealed he had made political contributions while on the board (a state ethics violation), is owner of an alcohol distributorship in New Orleans, CROWN BEVERAGE, that sold liquor to LSTA for the bar, a cozy business relationship that could also be considered an ethics violation;
  • LSPC member Monica Manzella is a New Orleans attorney who serves as Legal Counsel for the City of New Orleans. As such, she negotiates and approves all Local Area Compensated Enforcement (LACE—a program is run by some district attorneys in the state to pay State Troopers for traffic enforcement, including DWIs) contracts between the city and State Police, contracts that determine what rate is paid the troopers (see above re: ethics);
  • Manzella was never nominated for her position on the commission by a university president as required by state law—even though LSPC and the governor’s office had been notified of this discrepancy with other members well before her appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards;
  • J. Doss, a rank and file State Trooper, is Chairman of the commission and as such, would be called upon to take the lead in any investigations of State Trooper transgressions—including any investigation that might arise involving his boss, Edmonson, a questionable incestuous arrangement at best.

Here are a couple of STATE-POLICE-CONTRACTS approved by Manzella in her capacity as legal counsel for the City of New Orleans.

Given the multiple ethics breaches, the naked power grab being attempted by Edmonson through his rubber stamp commission and the numerous serious administrative blunders documented on this site, Gov. Edwards needs to seriously consider cutting his losses now before Edmonson causes him irreparable political damage and embarrassment down the road, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association be damned.

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Despite Inspector General Stephen Street’s impassioned plea for a stay of proceedings in the Corey DelaHoussaye defamation lawsuit against the Street and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) “for the sake of conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars,” it has been brought to the attention of LouisianaVoice that one of the biggest and most expensive law firms in Baton Rouge has been retained to defend OIG.

And apparently it’s not enough that the firm Taylor Porter was retained but the firm has assigned not one, not two, but three of its attorneys to the DelaHoussaye matter.

As evidenced by OIG’s MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS filed on Nov. 15, Taylor Porter attorneys Preston Castille, Jr., Katia Bowman and Ne’Shira Millender signed off as “Special Assistant Attorney General Counsel to OIG Defendants.”

Talking about using a baseball bat to swat a gnat…

Not that DelaHoussaye is a gnat by any means. He appears to have a pretty solid case against Street and OIG, given that his home was raided by Street on the basis of a search warrant the OIG has no authority to issue and based on the fact that Street initiated the prosecution of DelaHoussaye even though DelaHoussaye did not work for any state agency.

It’s also telling that by the attorneys signing off as “Special Assistant Attorney General” counsels for OIG it is implicit that the Taylor Porter contract was issued by the Office of the Attorney General.

You may remember how Attorney Jeff Landry got his drawers in a wad over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointment of attorneys to represent the state in litigation against oil companies for their contribution to the destruction of Louisiana’s coast. Landry just flat refused to sign off on the contracts and Edwards was forced to cancel their appointments.

That’s because State law gives the attorney general the final say-so in approving the appointment of all lawyers who represent the state.

So what’s wrong with that? Not much except that LIZ MURRILL is Chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Division and as such has direct supervision over Taylor Porter.

And her husband, JOHN MURRILL, just happens to be a PARTNER at Taylor Porter.

Now I’m not an attorney but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once and it appears to me that the Taylor Porter contract comes awfully close to a violation of the STATE ETHICS CODE which says, in part:

  • GENERAL PROHIBITIONS (R.S. 42:1111 – 1121): For public servants, other than legislators or appointed members of boards and commission, bidding on or entering into any contract, subcontract or other transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the public servant’s agency. This restriction also applies to the immediate family members of the public servant and to legal entities in which the public servant and/or his family members own an interest in excess of 25 percent. (Emphasis added)

Granted, John Murrill doesn’t “own” 25 percent of Taylor Porter but he is a partner in the firm.

And the State Ethics Law covers that little contingency when it goes on to say:

  • 1112 – Participation by a public servant in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which any of the following persons have a substantial economic interest: (1) the public servant; (2) any member of his immediate family; (3) any person in which he has an ownership interest that is greater than the interest of a general class; (4) any person of which he is an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee; (5) any person with whom he is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment; (6) any person who is indebted to him or is a party to an existing contract with him and by reason thereof is in a position to affect directly his economic interests. (Emphasis added)

Does Taylor Porter and thus John Murrill have an “economic interest” through contracts with the Attorney General’s Civil Division?

Well, consider this: Taylor Porter, from August 2015 through November 2016, was approved for 13 contracts totaling more than $2 million, about $160,000 per contract on average.

And that didn’t even include Taylor Porter’s contract to defend OIG. That contract has yet to be entered on the state’s online LaTrac program, which lists contracts with every state agency.

Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all of this. If so, we’d love to hear it.

Otherwise, we’ll just refer to the immortal words of the late C.B. Forgotston:

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

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Louisiana’s Inspector General Stephen Street recently accused LouisianaVoice of not letting facts get in the way of a good story.

He should know.

It was Street’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that went after Corey Delahoussaye for overbilling for hurricane cleanup in Livingston Parish at the same time Delahoussaye was working as an informant for the FBI to assist in challenging more than $50 million in charges submitted to FEMA by Livingston Parish.

It was Street’s OIG that raided Delahoussaye’s home with the assistance of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office in the early–morning hours on July 25, 2013, even though nowhere in the statute establishing OIG is the agency authorized to obtain search warrants. The raid was conducted at 6 am with multiple agents bearing firearms in a home that was only occupied by Mr. and Ms. Delahoussaye and their two young children.

It was OIG that served subpoenas on Delahoussaye’s fitness club and his doctor seeking personal and medical records even though state law requires a judge to issue a written reason for the subpoena. No such written reason was ever obtained.

But never let law get in the way of a good raid.

The Office of the State Inspector General was established by the Louisiana Legislature. Its purpose is set forth in LA R.S. 49:220.1-220.26. Section 220.21 reads in part:

  • The prevention and detection of waste, inefficiencies, mismanagement, misconduct, abuse, fraud, and corruption in all departments, offices, agencies, boards, commissions, task forces, authorities, and divisions of the executive branch of state government as specifically provided in Title 36 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, all hereinafter referred to in this part collectively as “covered agencies” and individually “covered agency” is an important responsibility of the state.”
  • In the view of the responsibility of the state, it is the purpose of this part to establish an independent office of the state Inspector General in the office of the Governor to examine and investigate the management and affairs of the covered agencies.” (Emphasis added)

Livingston Parish, with whom Delahoussaye was contracted, is not part of the executive branch of state government. Accordingly, OIG had no authority to carry out a raid on Delahoussaye. None. Nada. Zilch.

The obvious solution was to claim he was contracted to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). Except he was not and never had been.

Never let facts get in the way of a good witch hunt.

Of course Street was not alone in this exercise of the absurd. Scott Perrilloux, District Attorney for the 21st Judicial District which includes Livingston Parish, took his “evidence” to a grand jury which promptly refused to indict Delahoussaye. Undeterred, Perrilloux simply proceed to indict Delahoussaye on a bill of information. After all, there were $56 million in bogus charges for Livingston Parish cleanup uncovered by…Delahoussaye. But they thought they had Delahoussaye dead to rights for a couple of thousand dollars in unwarranted charges they said, incorrectly, it turns out, that he billed for.

Instead, all the charges were thrown out and now Delahoussaye is out for his pound of flesh as payback for the hell Street and Perrilloux put him through—as he should be. He has filed a DEFAMATION-LAWSUIT against OIG and now Street, after spending untold thousands of dollars pursuing criminal charges and now that the is suddenly a defendant in an unexpected turn of events, suddenly is thinking about the horrific costs to be incurred by the state in the discovery phase of Delahoussaye’s lawsuit. SAVING-TAXPAYER-DOLLARS

“For the sake of conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars, the OIG requests a stay of this proceeding, including a stay in discovery,” read OIG’s motion to stay proceedings pending a First Circuit Court of Appeal decision on OIG’s writ application. (Emphasis added)

Okay, so Street wants to talk about “wasted taxpayer dollars?” How about the sheer volume and man-hours for lodging an almost-guaranteed-to-fail appeal? Here’s the link for the OIG’s APPEAL: It rambles on for 169 pages on something that is almost certain to fail based on an earlier ruling by the First Circuit wherein the court said that if a state agency lacks jurisdiction to investigate (as 21st JDC Judge Brenda Ricks made it clear in her rulings), then a cause of action can survive a motion for Preemptive Exception based on “invasion of privacy.”

So, bottom line, we have the Office of Inspector General:

  • Serving subpoenas absent the required judge’s written reasons;
  • Carrying out an early morning raid on the basis of a search warrant even though the law creating OIG never gives search warrant power to the agency, and
  • Taking a leadership role in carrying out the raid even though that same law relegates OIG to a “back seat” role once it determines it has credible information of criminal activity.

Finally, that “credible information” is the belief that Delahoussaye was contracted by GOHSEP when in fact, his contract was with Livingston Parish.

But never let facts…..

And only after all that did it occurred to Street that he should suddenly now be concerned with conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars.

Lest we forget, this is the same agency that went after former State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Murphy Painter when Painter got crossways of Bobby Jindal and one of his biggest campaign contributors, Saints owner Tom Benson.

And we know how that turned out: The state had to end up paying Painter’s legal costs of $474,000 after Painter was exonerated in federal court.

 

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Bobby Jindal, the Rhode Scholar who rode into town on the crest of a billion-dollar surplus nine years ago this month, rode out 12 months ago leaving the state wallowing in red ink and now it is learned that he inflicted even more fiscal carnage on his way out the door.

And knowing the way in which he and his final Commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichols, juggled the books, it’s not at all unreasonable to think that Jindal’s final example of fiscal irresponsibility may well have been an intentional act of political chicanery carried out to buy him time so that his successor would be left with the mess to clean up. (Of course, Kristy didn’t become commissioner until Paul Rainwater left in 2012, but that does not change the fact that a lot of dollars were moved around—swept—before and after she was promoted.)

Hey! It’s not that far-fetched. He did it with the Office of Group Benefits. He did it with higher education. He did it with the LSU Hospital System. Boy, did he do it with the hospital system—with a contract containing 50 blank pages, yet!

By the time Jindal left office, virtually the only state agency left with a shred of credibility and integrity was the office of the Legislative Auditor—and that’s largely because the office has complete autonomy and is independent from outside political pressure, particularly from the governor’s office.

And now, coincidentally, it is that same Legislative Auditor who has issued a damning AUDIT REPORT that reveals a major SNAFU (if that’s truly what it was) in which the Jindal administration “misclassified” a $34.6 million default payment made by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems made in 2011.

The payment was made to Louisiana Economic Development after the shipyard failed to meet required hiring quotas but instead of using the money to pay off equipment the state had financed for Northrop Grumman, the audit says the Division of Administration “swept” the money when it was balancing the budget. As a result, the state has already paid some $2 million in interest and administrative costs on the equipment, and is potentially on the hook for some $6.2 million more.

Bobby and Kristy loved the process of “sweeping” agencies of excess funds lying around in order to try and plug gaping holes in the state budget that dogged Jindal every single year he was governor. “Sweeping” for funds is something like picking up crumbs off the floor in an attempt to gather enough to make a bundt cake.

“Since the debt could not be immediately defeased (a provision that voids a bond or loan) because of the limited prepayment options, the funds should have been segregated into a sinking account for defeasement of the debt, not a statutorily dedicated fund account that could be swept by legislative action,” the audit report says.

But the Louisiana Office of Economic Development (LED), then headed by $300,000-a-year Director Stephen Moret, failed to do that and, presto! The funds got swept by the Jindal Housecleaning Service and as a result, the state “will continue to incur additional interest and administrative costs until the debt (on the equipment) is defeased,” the audit reads. “If not defeased before the Oct. 2022 … the state will incur more than $6.2 million in additional interest and administrative costs.”

LED entered into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Northrop Grumman in the early 2000s. The company had acquired Avondale Shipyard in Jefferson Parish and Northrop Grumman, under the terms of the deal, agreed to maintain employment levels of some 3,500 jobs a year with an economic impact of $1 billion. In return, the state agreed, among other things, to issue bonds to finance more than $34 million worth of cranes and equipment that would modernize the shipyard.

But dreams and schemes are made of fragile things. Northrop Grumman fell short of its job requirements and LED notified the company in early 2011 that it wasn’t living up to its employment obligations. Northrop Grumman agreed to settle with the state for $34.6 million, which represented the acquisition cost of the equipment. It wired the money to LED in March 2011, the report says.

But the state didn’t use the money to pay off the debt on the equipment, nor did it set the funds aside in an escrow account to pay it off in the future. Instead, it “swept” the money into the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund, was enacted during the 2011 session to help supplement the state’s Medicaid program.

But don’t worry, folks. It’s just another example of the superb financial management of the state’s resources about which Jindal would boast—in Iowa, certainly not Louisiana—during his comical quest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, his final year I office.

And now the state finds itself hanging out to dry while trying to come up with that long gone $34.6 million, plus about $2 million in interest and administrative costs.

In a written response to the audit’s findings, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne pointed out that Jindal’s actions, while ill-advised, were nonetheless legal. “The (Jindal) administration’s decision to use the funds for other purposes was not prohibited by the terms of the (agreement) with Northrop Grumman,” he says, noting that the Legislature approved of the financial maneuver.

Perhaps, but we all know the definitions of the legal thing and the right thing are sometimes poles apart. In this case, those responsible knew what that $34.6 million was for and they chose to do what was legal but not what was right.

The question now is does the Office of Risk Management carry excess coverage that would allow the State to make a claim for recovery of the money on the basis of stupidity? Should Jindal, Nichols, and Moret be asked to dig deep into their pockets to come up with the money?

Nah. It’ll never happen.

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